Separate And Unequal Blu-ray and HD DVD Releases From Paramount
The Matrix and Pirates of the Caribbean aren't the only compelling HD releases that have come out in the last few weeks. And a pair of releases from Paramount and Warner however, highlight the different approaches taken by each studio to dual format releases.
Clint Eastwood's WWII companion films, Flags of Our Fathers and Letters from Iwo Jima were each released on HD DVD and Blu-ray by Paramount and Warner, respectively. While Warner provided virtually identical presentations on both formats with 1080p VC1-encoded video and Dolby TrueHD lossless audio for Letters, Paramount encoded Flags of Our Fathers using 1080p AVC video and 640kps Dolby Digital audio on Blu-ray, and 1080p VC1 video and 1.5Mbps Dolby Digital Plus audio on HD DVD. So, HD DVD owners got superior audio and, according to some online reviews Blu-ray owners got slightly sharper video in the AVC transfer.
The curious thing about all this is that Paramount ostensibly spends more money by using two different video and video encodes on each format. And then there's two more issues. One, plain jane Dolby Digital is legacy audio at this point. Blu-ray and HD DVD can offer better sound quality. Why not give it to the folks who support Blu-ray? Especially since Blu-ray has nearly twice the storage space as HD DVD!
Two, while 1.5Mbps Dolby Digital Plus is better than what we had on DVD, it isn't the best there is. Uncompressed PCM, and Dolby TrueHD lossless are frequently used by the studios who want to offer the best audio experience possible on next-gen media. The difference in quality is not subtle. All current HD DVD players and a growing number of BD players can decode TrueHD. Why are Paramount and Universal, which ae otherwise doing an excellent job of supporting HD on a 5" disc holding back from offering the best?
I like the commitment to HD I'm seeing from these studios. I just hope they start taking advantage of the opportunity to provide high-definition audio in additon to the high-definition video.